Many of you know Shirl on this blog from her wonderful devotionals. Today, I would like to introduce you to her debut non-fiction title, Strength Renewed, which was recently released.
Strength Renewed is a book of 90 meditations based on actual incidents that happened during Shirl's cancer journey, tied in with relevant scriptures. It is written in chronological order, but each story stands alone, so they may be read in any order. Each devotion includes three questions to help the reader relate the message to her own journey. Strength Renewed was written primarily for patients and their loved ones, but it will also be helpful for those walking alongside the patient as family, friends, or part of the medical team.
During Shirl's own battle with cancer, she spent much time in the botanical gardens near her home, watching a pair of Vereaux's eagles and wishing she could rise and soar over the cancer valley. Isaiah 40:31 says that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. This became a favorite verse for Shirl and is the foundation verse on which she based this book.
Read through my interview with Shirl, then find out how you could win a copy of this book. If you know of someone that this book might minister to, please pass on the links.
SHIRL: Sjoe! Where to start? Apart from the usual side-effects of treatment which are widely publicized, there were a number of unanticipated things that blind-sided me. I found myself feeling inferior to normal people who didn't have cancer. I felt insecure in company, and felt as if everyone looked down on me because of my diagnosis. I think a lot of that was caused by the number of people who felt they had to tell me why I had cancer. Although these were all things I could do nothing about, they implied it was something I had done or failed to do so it was really my own fault. But also, I had always been an efficient, active person and the fact that I was no longer efficient and often lacked the stamina to do things told me (even if no one else thought of this) that I was no longer capable.
LISA: What challenges did you face as a survivor?
SHIRL: Getting my strength back. I looked forward to the end of treatment, expecting to immediately feel better. I didn't. Only a month after I finished treatment, my oncologist explained to me that the chemo was still in my system, and it would continue to work in cycles for some time. I wish I'd been warned about this in advance.
Also getting over the sense of insecurity. I grappled with a sense of failure and found it extremely difficult to admit that something normal was too hard for me. On a number of occasions I dug in my heels like a two-year-old and said, I can do this myself and a short while later I had to crawl back in tears and say, "I couldn't do it. Please will you finish it for me?"
Praise the Lord for a super-patient husband, who would drop what he was doing and sort out what had left unfinished. (Like the shopping cart sitting in the middle of the shop! Like the half-cooked shepherd's pie! Like the dog standing shivering with half her hair trimmed! Like . . . you get the picture!)
LISA: Today, you're a published author. When did you start writing?
SHIRL: From the age of 14, I started writing songs and skits for the church, and for a period I wrote quite a bit of poetry. But then a few years before I got cancer, I felt a strong nudge to do a correspondence course in creative writing. I never had any dreams of being published so I can only think this was one of the ways the Lord prepared me for what was to come. During cancer treatment, I did quite a bit of journaling, and a year after treatment I knew the Lord wanted me to start sharing my story through publication.
LISA: Can you share briefly your road to publication?
SHIRL: The first article I ever wrote for publication was a meditation for The Upper Room and included an anecdote from my cancer treatment. To my amazement and delight, TUR picked it up and published it. I had several published with them before moving onto other markets as well, such as The Secret Place and a number of others initially in the USA and UK, but subsequently in South Africa as well.
In 2004 I attended the Sandy Cove Christian Writers conference as a result of a scholarship awarded by the Christian Writers Group (CWG). Although I didn't sell a manuscript, I learned a tremendous amount about the writing process. I started my first website as well as an online group for Christian Writers of South Africa, now known as CWOSA.
About six years ago, I sensed a clear call from the Lord that I would one day write a book of devotional messages for people going through the cancer valley. For the next few years, I collected ideas and continued to hone my writing skills. Three years ago, I knew the time had come, and I started work on the book.
At that point, Cec Murphey contacted me and offered to sponsor me to a second writers' conference. I immediately knew this was for Rise and Soar, the working title of my devotional book. Sure enough, I met Vicki Crumpton of Revell/Baker there, which eventually led to the publication of Strength Renewed which launched this month.
LISA: How has having breast cancer impacted on your life over the years?
SHIRL: Before cancer I was an active registered nurse. After cancer I became a full-time writer. Apart from this complete career change, cancer also changed my attitude and my priorities in so many ways. I became a better listener, more patient and understanding with others, and I find it easier to drop everything and come alongside a person in need. There was the BC (before cancer) Shirley and the AC (after cancer) Shirley. And I definitely prefer the AC version!
LISA: What advice would you give to the public regarding breast health awareness?
SHIRL: Be aware that breast cancer is horribly common. (1 in 8 baby girls will grow up to get breast cancer and those are old statistics.) Yet people must also realize that many of these statistics will be survivors! The key is to catch the disease in its early stages. People must also be aware that men get breast cancer, and even more rarely, some adolescents. Although male breast cancer is not common, it has a higher rate of fatality as it is often discovered too late.
All adults should do regular self-examinations in the shower or bath, when their hands are soapy. Ladies should do them each month at the same point of their menstrual cycles. All women must have regular annual mammograms from the age of 50 or younger, depending on medical advice. Breast cancer is one of the cancers that may run in families, so those with a history of a parent or sibling diagnosed with breast cancer must be especially diligent in watching for any suspicious lumps or thickening in the breast.
LISA: Where can we find your book online?
SHIRL: The print version is available wherever good books are sold, including Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and ChristianBooks.com. The Kindle version is available at Amazon.com, and the Nook version is at Barnes and Noble.
LISA: Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing, Shirl. Shirl has a lot of great information, encouragement, recipes, and more on her website, so be sure and visit her there.
NOW LET'S HEAR FROM YOU!
Please share with us a favorite Scripture that encourages you when times are hard. Leave your answer and email address under comments below and you will be entered into a draw for a free copy of her book. I will draw a winner on Sunday.
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